Coronavirus PPE: 400,000 gowns from Turkey fail to meet UK standards

7 May 2020, 07:24

The PPE was flown from Turkey on an RAF flight
The PPE was flown from Turkey on an RAF flight. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Authorities have impounded 400,000 gowns from Turkey after they were found not to be up to British standards.

The Daily Telegraph reports the protective equipment was flown to the UK last month by the RAF but has been held in a Government warehouse near London Heathrow.

The paper reported the PPE was found to be faulty by inspectors.

There is a global shortage of PPE and the Government has been criticised over its efforts to secure the essential equipment for healthcare workers during the coronavirus crisis.

The Government has faced mounting pressure from politicians and the public over a perceived failure to provide frontline NHS staff with protective equipment.

Ministers insisted they were pursuing "every possible option" to secure additional kit but said that, with unprecedented worldwide demand, the situation is "very challenging" and it was announced in April a supply of gowns had been sourced from Turkey.

On Thursday morning LBC's Nick Ferrari asked Government Minister Brandon Lewis "who's to blame for the emergency shipment of PPE coming back from Turkey, by the Royal Air Force, being of no use?"

The Minister said he "took a different premise" which was he gave "great credit to the teams at the NHS and experts that have reviewed that, and taken the view that it's not good enough quality for our frontline staff."

He said it was "absolutely right" that the PPE was not used by frontline NHS staff, and that the Government was working to secure PPE from around the world.

He said admitted part of the shipment of vital protective equipment from turkey was flawed, "those gowns that are just not good enough quality, and we're not going to use them for our frontline staff if they are not good enough quality."

The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has told LBC he’s "really worried" about access to PPE after the 400,000 gowns flown from Turkey were not up to standard.

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify

However it has since been revealed that some of the equipment did not meet the required criteria to be suitable for use by frontline healthcare workers, the Telegraph reported.

It is not yet clear whether the Government will pursue a refund over the order, but Brandon Lewis told LBC the health department would be looking at the issue.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said it is "embarrassing" that 400,000 gowns flown in from Turkey were substandard and could not be used by NHS workers.

Speaking on LBC, Ms Dodds said: "I think it is embarrassing obviously and it looks like there wasn't proper quality assurance on those supplies.

"But the critical thing is how are we going to sort this out for the future, because we're talking to frontline workers in care homes, in particular, saying they are really concerned because they don't have access to the protective equipment they need.

"You know, we don't need to have a blame game, we need to get this sorted out, we need to get those supplies where they need to be."

Ms Dodds added: "We've got great British manufacturers who are crying out to be involved in this effort. They haven't been used sufficiently so far.

"We've got to sort this out, get those supplies to where they need to be."

In a statement to the paper, the Department of Health and Social Care said: "This is a global pandemic with many countries procuring PPE, leading to shortages around the world, not just the UK.

"We are working night and day to source PPE internationally and domestically and brought together the NHS, industry and the Armed Forces to create a comprehensive PPE distribution network to deliver critical supplies to the front line.

"All deliveries of PPE are checked to ensure the equipment meets the safety and quality standards our frontline staff need. If equipment does not meet our specifications or pass our quality assurance processes, it is not distributed to the front line."